JOUR 510 Covering American Muslims

A Guide for Media Professionals

The majority of Americans say they do not know a Muslim. For many of these Americans, what they know about Muslims comes from media representations. However, according to media content analysis, more than 80 percent of television media coverage of Islam and Muslims in the United States is negative. Such narrow media representations open the door to distorted public perceptions of American Muslims, especially in the absence of any first-hand knowledge of this diverse community. The role of the media in informing the public has never been more important, especially when it comes to marginalized communities. At the same time, journalists are constantly asked to cover more and more, with less resources. We created this guide to help.

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Successful Media Approaches

1. Expand the voices that inform your reporting.
Muslims come from all walks of life, as well as diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. They play a variety of roles in their communities. Include Muslim voices in stories about what concerns all Americans. This includes the voices of: Black or African American Muslims, who make up 25–33% of all American Muslims (Learn more about Black Muslim experiences→); Women; Both native-born and immigrant American Muslims

2.Move beyond the security lens.

Cover stories about American Muslims not framed around national security or criminal violence. Shed light on the diverse roles American Muslims play in their communities and provide a more accurate, nuanced portrait of who American Muslims really are.

3. Treat Americans that are Muslims as just that—American.

There has never been an America without Islam and Muslims; they were early explorers, enslaved Africans, and immigrants from around the world. Casting Islam and Muslims as foreign, non-American, and “other” is inaccurate. Rather, rightly cast Muslims as a part of the diverse fabric of American society.

4. Avoid implicating religion as the sole explanation for negative behavior.

Americans that are Muslim are complex human beings, and their motivation is complex. Don’t assume religion is the driver of their behavior.